They combine immense and entertaining performance figures, with sharp handling and aggressive styling, but they’re also just as practical as your more mundane superminis and family hatchbacks. But what makes a hatchback a ‘warm’ hatch?

Basically, a warm hatch is a car that bridges the gap between a regular supermini or hatchback and its performance derivatives. Warm hatch is a term that’s (currently at least) rarely used by manufacturers but has become a popular phrase amongst performance car enthusiasts and car reviewers.

The characteristics of a warm hatch

While the word hot is used to signify high-performance, the word warm means that extra performance is still being added, just not as much as what’s possible. A warm hatch will be not quite as sporty or as fast as a standard hot hatch, but it will be quicker and sportier than any of the non-hot or non-warm derivatives of the same car.

Often, a warm hatch will use a smaller engine or differently tuned version of a hot hatch's engine, offering entertaining levels of power but better fuel economy than a hot hatch would.

The suspension of warm hatches also doesn’t tend to be as firm compared to hot hatches. Also, the exterior styling will likely be a little tamer and the throttle response won’t be as sharp.

Current warm hatches

One example of a warm hatch in today’s new car market is the Ford Fiesta ST-Line. The 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine in this car offers 138bhp. It is more powerful and has a sportier ride than all the ‘regular’ specifications in the Fiesta range, but is not as quick or as sporty as the Fiesta ST, which represents the proper hot hatch in the Fiesta range.

Other current examples of warm hatches include the Suzuki Swift Sport, Hyundai i30 Turbo and Kia Cee’d GT. Not all warm hatches will necessary have a more potent hot hatch accompanying them, but they all have similar sorts of power output which is noticeably less compared to true hot hatches of the same size.

The appeal of warm hatches

While hot hatches can offer a lot of driving fun, they may be off-putting for driving enthusiasts on a tighter budget because of their typical purchase prices and the heavy fuel costs associated with them.

That’s where warm hatches prove a real attraction as they are more economical, cheaper to buy and run but can still offer a lot of driving fun. Having a more comfortable ride than typical hot hatches can make warm hatches more persuading to certain customers too.